A story of collapse and renewal: Award-winning journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk to embark on speaking tour of the Kootenays
In an upcoming speaker series, award-winning author and journalist, Andrew Nikiforuk will talk about the impact and evolutionary role that bark beetles play in the health of aging forests, and the critical lessons this tiny creature has to teach human society about natural cycles of collapse and renewal in all ecosystems.
Since the 1980s a series of bark beetle epidemics has pillaged North American pine and spruce forests from Alaska to New Mexico. In BC in particular, the outbreak of the beetles has transformed whole economies in many rural areas.
Nikiforuk’s most recent book, Empire of the Beetle, a dramatic look at beetles and the world’s most powerful landscape changer, was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction in 2011 and recently for the Shaugnessy-Cohen Award.
“Our response to this event was much more destructive than the actual event itself,” Nikiforuk says. “We made massive clear cuts, destroyed roads and watersheds. We’ve logged in such an unsustainable manner that many rural BC communities won’t have anything to log for the next 30 years. Nobody knows if what we’ve lost will come back because our climate is changing so rapidly. Climate change is at our doorstep.”
The author of numerous acclaimed books on a variety of subjects, Nikiforuk won the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction in 2002 for his dramatic, Alberta-based book Saboteurs: Weibo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil. Nikiforuk gives an in-depth analysis of the Alberta Tar Sands in his 2008 book, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, and says he’ll be talking about the massive development in relation to the beetle epidemic on his tour of the Kootenays.
“They’re different stories that highlight similar themes,” he explains. “They’re stories about complexity, what happens when things get too complex and how complex regimes fall apart. There are improbable characters on the land that bring down these big projects – whether it be an aging forest or an aging energy system. It’s a story about collapse and renewal.”
“Given the social, economic and political implications of the pine beetle and Tar Sands development, Mr. Nikiforuk’s presentation will be relevant to teaching and learning across a number of disciplines,” says Rob Macrae, Selkirk College Instructor of Integrated Environmental Planning Technology.
“Events like this help Selkirk College contribute to the cultural enrichment of communities in our area,” Macrae notes, adding that the speaking tour was made possible through sponsorship by the Selkirk College Faculty Association and the Selkirk College Library, as well as a number of other partners, including Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST), Kootenay Library Foundation, Fernie Heritage Library, Wing Creek Resort and the Columbia Alliance for Literacy (CBAL).
Nikiforuk will be speaking at the Fernie Heritage Library on April 2, at Selkirk College’s Castlegar Campus on April 3, and in Kaslo at the Langham Gallery on April 4. Each talk will take place at 7:00 p.m.